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Energy Transition Necessary To Achieve The 1.5°C Target By 2050: IRENA


IRENA’s energy transition indicators amplifies that “significant acceleration is needed across energy sectors and technologies, from deeper end-use electrification of transport and heat, to direct renewable use, energy efficiency and infrastructure additions”.


By Salam Rajesh

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says that a massive 150 trillion US Dollar is required to achieve the 1.5 degree Celsius target set by the United Nations, to be achieved by the year 2050. This averages over USD 5 trillion investments in annual terms.

Outlining the emerging trend in its recent report, ‘World Energy Transitions Outlook 2023’, the IRENA assesses that although the global investment across all energy transition technologies reached a record high of USD 1.3 trillion in 2022, the annual investment must more than quadruple to remain on the 1.5°C pathway, which by itself remains a huge task for the global community to realize.

The international agency further states that as compared with the Planned Energy Scenario, under which a cumulative investment of USD 103 trillion is required, an additional USD 47 trillion in cumulative investment is required by 2050 to remain on the 1.5°C pathway.

Supplementing the argument on this track, IRENA suggests that around USD 1 trillion of annual investments in fossil fuel-based technologies currently envisaged in the Planned Energy Scenario must therefore be redirected towards energy transition technologies and infrastructure to achieve the goal.

Assuming that by the year 2050 most of the world’s power is generated from renewable sources, the international agency assesses that electricity generation will more than triple from 2020 to 2050, with 91percent of the total electricity supply coming from renewable sources as compared to only around 28 percent in 2020. At this assumption, coal and oil-based power generation will experience a sharp decline over the decade before being phased out entirely by mid-century.

By 2050, natural gas will provide 5 percent of the total electricity needs, with the remainder being met by nuclear power plants. The transition features an important synergy between increasingly affordable renewable power technologies and the wider adoption of electric technologies for end-use applications, especially in transport and heat, says the agency.

Francesco La Camera, Director-General, IRENA, has this to say, “The recent Synthesis Report of the IPCC Sixth Assessment has delivered a sobering message – one that leaves little ambiguity as to the need for immediate action. This decade, our success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions will determine whether global temperature rise can be limited to 1.5°C or even 2°C. Within this time frame, the only realistic option available is a considerable scale-up of renewable energy and efficiency solutions”.

At a rough calculation, the use of passenger electric cars is estimated to increase sharply to around 355 million users by the year 2030 and 2180 million users by 2050 from the current estimate of 10.5 million users. At the same time, investments needs for charging infrastructure of EVs and EV adoption support is expected to increase to 364 billion per year from the current demand of 30 USD billion per year.

Considering the increased investment needs for energy conservation and efficiency with the rising demands for electrification, the report outlines that the demand could rise up to 1493 USD billion per year in 2050 from the current need of around 295 USD billion per year. This broadly outlines a sharp increase in the investment needs for energy efficiency.

This corresponding increase in energy needs can be simultaneously compared to the increased demand for reducing the fossil fuel use for automobiles and aircrafts in addressing directly the pervasive issue on global warming which is said to have brought about drastic changes to the climatic regimes worldwide, impacting both the human and the natural environments.

Reflecting on this emerging issue, the report states that IRENA’s energy transition indicators amplifies that “significant acceleration is needed across energy sectors and technologies, from deeper end-use electrification of transport and heat, to direct renewable use, energy efficiency and infrastructure additions”.

The report further states that, “Delays only add to the already considerable challenge of meeting the IPCC-defined emission reduction levels in 2030 and 2050 for a 1.5°C trajectory (IPCC, 2022). The lack of progress will also increase future investment needs and the costs of worsening climate change effects”.

On this very basis, the report opines that, “The imperatives of development and climate action, coupled with changing energy supply and demand dynamics, require coherence and alignment around priority actions. In 2020, multilateral and bilateral development finance institutions (DFIs) provided less than 3% of total renewable energy investments. Going forward, they need to direct more funds, at better terms, towards large-scale energy transition projects”.

The world at large when looking for renewable energy basically look at wind and solar for best options that are affordable and more suited to low-scale investments. Against this is the larger component of investing in geothermal and hydro energy. Whereas, despite being promoted as ‘green energy’, hydropower generation can run into disputes on the ground that mega dams for hydropower generation can cause major impacts on the environment.

Suggesting a pathway to achieve the goals set, the report suggests that, “The centrality of energy to the global development and climate agenda is undisputed, and international co-operation in energy has increased exponentially in recent years. This co-operation plays a decisive role in determining the outcomes of the energy transition and is a critical avenue for achieving greater resilience, inclusion and equality”.

Further, “The dynamism of energy sectors and geopolitical developments necessitates greater scrutiny of international co-operation modalities, instruments and approaches to ensure their relevance, impact and agility”.

India, like the other nations around the world, is already pushing for the energy transition from coal and fossil fuel-base to solar and electrification on hybrid mode, with a push for hydrogen fuel to meet the world’s targets on the 1.5 degree Celsius pathway. It has to be seen how the Government of Manipur picks up the thread on the concerns that are circulating across the globe on an emergency mode.

(The writer looks at environmental stories through the journalistic lens. He can be reached at [email protected])

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